North Harbour remain unbeaten

Tevita Li scores his late try for North Harbour last night's win over Counties-Manukau. Photo:...
Tevita Li scores his late try for North Harbour last night's win over Counties-Manukau. Photo: Getty Images
North Harbour has maintained its perfect start to the Mitre 10 Cup season.

It went to the top of the Premiership standings with a scrappy 27-18 victory over Counties Manukau last night.

Four days after its record thumping of Auckland, Harbour was slightly less convincing in Pukekohe but recorded the same result, winning its fourth-straight match to move clear of Canterbury.

The visitors clinched victory through Tevita Li's acrobatic try in the 73rd minute, after earlier earning an advantage through the boot of Ben Volavola, with the Fijian international assuming kicking duties when Bryn Gatland suffered an early injury.

Fluid attacks were hard to find in challenging conditions, but Harbour did enough to condemn Counties to their third defeat.

Itinitially controlled the contest through Gatland's measured kicking before winning it with Volavola's accuracy.

Harbour led from almost the opening whistle after Sione Mafileo crashed over from close range to capitalise on an early error from the opposition, the first turnover of many for a sloppy Counties attack.

The home side responded well and began to enjoy prime field position, but it coughed up possession far too often to mount any serious pressure on the Harbour defence.

It would have headed to halftime in a serious hole but for an extremely late break from Tim Nanai-Williams, setting up Luteru Laulala's try almost three minutes after the hooter had sounded. And some more Nanai-Williams magic put his side in front shortly after the break, crossing for his own try to build an unlikely lead.

But Volavola soon put Harbour back ahead and, after spending much of the final quarter deep in Counties territory, Li finally finished it off.

Counties-Manukau 18 (L. Laulala, T. Nanai-Williams tries; L. Laulala 2 pens, con)
North Harbour 27 (S. Mafileo, T. Li; B. Gatland con, pen, B. Volavola 4 pens)
Halftime: 11-16

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